At some point, all parents consider whether and when it’s a good idea to buy their kids a pet and the question inevitably ends up being: <em>What kind of pet should we buy?</em>
The question is partially answered by motivation. Parents looking to instill responsibility might consider something that actually has a chance at survival rather than a quasi-pet that is doomed from the start (sorry, Mr. Goldfish), while parents with no worries about overdoing it may just go straight for a pony.
Somewhere in between these extremes, however, there is a decent balance between making kids happy and not breaking the bank. Let’s take a look at some of the options.
<strong>1. A Fish (That Generally Doesn’t Exist as Food for Other Fish)</strong>
Goldfish are trophies won at county fairs with a ping pong ball and an ounce of luck. If you’re in the market for a fish, there are plenty of affordable, hardy freshwater varieties from which to choose that aren’t found in the “feeder fish” section of the pet store. Cichlids, gobies, barbs, rainbow sharks and angelfish are just a few examples.
<em>Fun Fact:</em> Siamese fighting fish (those frilly-finned fish you always see in tiny bowls in big-box store pet departments) are so aggressive they will attack their own reflections.
<strong>2. A Rodent (Rats and Mice Included)</strong>
Ah, rodents! Some parents draw the line here, but the truth is that they really are good pets. Most have a predictable and manageable lifespan (2 to 8 years) and respond well to handling and human interaction. Gerbils, guinea pigs, rats, mice and hamsters are all affordable options that are good with people.
<em>Fun Fact:</em> Hedgehogs are <em>not</em> rodents and are <em>not</em> related to porcupines. Incidentally, they are also illegal to own in California, Georgia, Maine, Pennsylvania, Arizona and Hawaii.
<strong>3. A Puppy (Or Kitten)</strong>
This, of course, is the gold standard of pets and every kid’s waking dream. The rewards are plentiful, but so are the drawbacks. The level of care required is significant and these pets’ longevity means your kids (or you, if you’re not careful) will be in it for the long haul. Plus, the initial and long-term costs can be larger than anticipated.
<em>Fun Fact: </em>The Labrador retriever has been America’s most popular dog for more than 20 years, according to AKC registration rolls.
<strong>4. A Reptile (All Bets Are Off!)</strong>
Reptiles make the starter-pet list more often than you’d think for many reasons: they’re “exotic,” they’re generally affordable, and because parents often perceive them as an experiment that won’t last, which would be the furthest thing from the truth if their owners didn’t kill them. Reptiles are long-lived creatures and popular choices include snakes, turtles and lizards.
<em>(Not So) Fun Fact: </em>Sadly, Great Britain’s oldest pet, Thomas the Tortoise, died in May 2013 – he was 130 years old.
<a title="ATG Stores Homepage" href="http://www.atgstores.com/default.aspx" target="_blank">ATGStores.com</a> hopes this list gives you some good ideas about what kinds of pets your kids might like and invites you to vote on what you think is the best first pet for kids.